The Future Looks Swedish? Volvo Inks a Deal to Supply Uber's Driverless Dreams

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
the future looks swedish volvo inks a deal to supply ubers driverless dreams

Building on a strategic partnership announced in August last year, Volvo has signed a framework agreement with Uber to sell “tens of thousands” of autonomous driving compatible base vehicles between 2019 and 2021.

While reading the report, it was important for this author to keep in mind the challenge in affixing an actual definition to the words autonomous driving. There have been shouty voices in various parts of the internet disputing the terms autonomous, Autopilot, and self-driving. There is merit to these arguments.

Nevertheless, Volvo is working with Uber to create technology that will allow vehicles to move about without a driver providing input 100 percent of the time.

The non-exclusive agreement — and it is important to note the word non-exclusive – furthers the partnership between Volvo and Uber while also writing a new chapter in the convergence of car makers and tech companies. Or, if one doesn’t view it as a full chapter, it’s at least more than a simple footnote.

The base for these vehicles is being developed on Volvo’s modular Scalable Product Architecture, which was developed in-house by the engineering boffins at the Swedish company. It is currently used on Volvo’s top-of-the-line 90 series machines, such as the XC90 and gorgeous (but special-order only) V90. The new XC60 midsize SUV deploys this Scalable Product Architecture as well.

“Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for AD ride-sharing service providers globally,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive. “Today’s agreement with Uber is a primary example of that strategic direction.”

Volvo Cars’ engineers have apparently worked with engineers from Uber to develop the XC90 premium SUVs that are planned to be supplied to Uber. The base vehicles incorporate safety, redundancy, and core autonomous (there’s that word again) driving technologies which are required for Uber to add its own self-driving technology.

The relationship is not monogamous. At the same time as providing Uber with AD-compatible cars, Volvo will use the same base vehicle in the development of its own independent autonomous car strategy, which is planned to culminate in the release of its first fully autonomous car (Volvo’s language) in 2021.

[Images: Volvo Cars]

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  • Asdf Asdf on Nov 21, 2017

    The headline makes no sense. "The Future Looks Chinese" would have made more sense, given the fact that Volvo is a Chinese automaker.

    • See 1 previous
    • Conundrum Conundrum on Nov 21, 2017

      @Garrett For about a century, the people of Britain and Germany have been buying Fords, mistakenly believing they were actually native vehicles. Having lived there I know the average dolt on the street doesn't know or care that actually Ford is American, so the people could have avoided buying them if they cared about the national identity of the true owners. GM did the same with Vaukhall and Opel till recently. I do not see the difference between this scenario and the Chinese ownership of Volvo. Is it only an OK business tactic if Americans do it, but an unforgiveable sin when someone else does it? Apparently so, say the knuckledraggers of "Murica. What about when that $1 billion Volvo factory opens in SC in 2019?

  • YellowDuck Thank goodness neither one had their feet up on the dash....
  • Zerofoo I learned a long time ago to never buy a heavily modified vehicle. Far too many people lack the necessary mechanical engineering skills to know when they've screwed something up.
  • Zerofoo I was part of this industry during my college years. We built many, many cars for "street pharmacists" that sounded like this.Excessive car audio systems are kind of like 800 HP engines. Completely unnecessary, but a hell of a lot of fun.
  • DedBull In it to win it!
  • Wolfwagen IIRC I remember reading somewhere that the Porsche Cayenne was supposed to have a small gasoline-powered block heater. There was a loop in the cooling system that ran to the heater and when the temperature got to a certain point (0°C)the vehicle's control unit would activate the heater. I dont know if this was a concept or if it ever made it into production.